Pressuring employees to work overtime is nothing new. Many companies have a corporate culture in which workers are strongly encouraged to start work before their official start time and continue working after their logout time. Although it’s generally frowned upon, there is nothing illegal about this practice, so long as the employees who work overtime consent to do so and are paid the proper overtime compensation.
Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), any time spent working after eight hours a day or forty hours a week is considered overtime. All hourly employees working in the United States are entitled to one and one-half times their normal hourly rate for all overtime worked. There are some exceptions to this rule, but the Act is very specific about the types of employees that can qualify for the exemption. First, the employees must be paid a salary and have certain responsibilities that puts them in the administrative, executive, or professional category.
According to a recent class action wage and hour lawsuit against Zillow, the online real estate company allegedly pressured employees into working overtime and the allegedly refused to pay them for that time. The company, which is based in Seattle, Washington, recently opened an advertising sales office in Irvine, California, where sales agents would pitch Zillow “Premier Agent” advertisements to real estate agents across the county.
The complaint described the Irvine office as high-energy and high-pressure. Workers are allegedly required to stand for hours at a time, without breaks, dialing potential clients. Ian Freeman worked for Zillow for two years before he quit. Now the lead plaintiff in the class action lawsuit, Freeman alleges the company systematically pressured employees to start work early, work late, and work through their lunch breaks without any additional compensation.
One employee, Isaac Cobain, said, “They used a lot of intimidation tactics to have employees work long hours without overtime out of fear of being reprimanded. … It’s all about squeezing revenue out of the sales force.”
The lawsuit further alleges Zillow used an automated timekeeping system that recorded an employee as starting her day at 8am and ending the day at 4pm, regardless of the actual hours worked. Under the federal FLSA, employers are required to maintain accurate records of all time worked and wages earned by employees. Failure to do so can be used by plaintiffs to prove that any violations of wage and hour laws were conducted knowingly and willingly. In some courts, that can result in a much higher fine for the defendant, if the court ends up ruling in favor of the plaintiff.
According to the complaint, “through various memos, meetings, and methods of intimidation, Zillow demanded from plaintiffs and class members to begin work prior to the automatically recorded 8 am start and continue working well beyond the previously recorded 4 pm punch-out time”.
Freeman is seeking certification of a class of more than 100 “inside sales consultants” who work or have worked for Zillow. The lawsuit is asking for $5 million in damages under the federal FLSA and California state labor law. Zillow denies all of the claims.The attorneys at Chicago Overtime Law Center have decades of experience litigating wage and hour cases, including overtime, vacation pay, meal breaks, and tips against Mortgage Brokerage, Real-Estate Brokerages and other financial services companies. We have offices conveniently located in Oak Brook and Chicago, Illinois. Contact the Naperville and Hinsdale overtime lawyers and attorneys at the Chicago Overtime Law Center today at 312-869-4095. We are looking to represent financial advisor associates, loan and mortgage brokers who have not been paid overtime and have been mis-classified as managers.